Ryan Turns Against Blanket Clemency

Facing criticism from families of murder victims, Illinois Gov. George Ryan said Wednesday that he is unlikely to grant blanket clemency to the state's death row inmates.

"That doesn't mean I won't do it, but I've pretty much decided that it's not an option I'm going to exercise," he said.

Ryan's statement came as the Illinois Prisoner Review Board was starting its second week of clemency hearings for 142 of the 160 death row inmates whose convictions have come under scrutiny by the governor's office.

More than three years ago, Ryan said that the system is broken and ordered a moratorium on executions following the release of 13 death row inmates who had been wrongly convicted.

Ryan convened a governor's commission to review the application of the death penalty and the review board was advised to offer an appeal hearing for every death row inmate. The board got started looking at cases last week.

Earlier this year, Ryan suggested he might commute all the sentences to life in prison, saying his main concern was to make sure no innocent person is executed. Victims rights groups said the governor needed to be more selective in the application of clemency.

Ryan leaves office in January.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.